Let joy be unconfined!

1408 p001 cover_with comp v2.inddTomorrow I will address the pathetically evasive response from Defra to our e-petition to ban driven grouse shooting (that gives you a hint as to what I think about it) but you may have noticed that it mentions that there are four pairs of Hen Harrier in England this year.

The existence of the fourth pair has been known to this blog for over five weeks. It’s in the Peak District and is in the general area of the site of our very rainy Hen Harrier Day protest.

So instead of the English Hen Harrier breeding population being at 0.9% of its biological potential we now know that it is at 1.2% of its biological potential – let joy be unconfined! We’re really on a roll!

No doubt this will be front page news – English National Park sees protected bird of prey survive and breed successfully!

The nest was on National Trust land and was found by their tenant Geoff Eyre. Now Geoff Eyre has been feted by the shooting community and is a recipient of the ‘prestigious’ Purdey Award. Mr Eyre has ‘a passion for all wildlife’ and so we can only imagine his joy at finding a nest of Hen Harriers on his grouse moor. What was the expression on his face as he looked down on the cute little Hen Harriers? Did he want to give them a big cuddle?  We understand that this particular area has not had the benefit of a gamekeeper’s presence this year otherwise, no doubt (no doubt at all), the ‘keeper would have been cuddling the Hen Harriers too.

See this link for an image of Mr Eyre smiling broadly – presumably at the thought of a Hen Harrier nesting on ‘his’ grouse moor. Let joy be unconfined! If My Eyre would like to tell us all exactly how he felt when he found the Hen Harrier nest then he is welcome to a Guest Blog here.

Mr Eyre lives and works in an area of the Peak District National Park that has been regarded as a black spot for raptor persecution for many years. It has been the subject of reports documenting the poor breeding success of birds of prey in this general area (see here and here). In fact, Mr Eyre’s former gamekeeper, Glenn Brown, was convicted of a wildlife offence not that long ago and the judge in the case gave Mr Eyre a bit of a ticking off too.

It is good to hear that the young Hen Harriers fledged from this nest have been fitted with satellite tags so that their travels can be monitored. Let’s hope that their travels can be followed in real time (perhaps with a few days delay) on this website. And let’s hope that they don’t share the fate of so many other tagged Hen Harriers, such as Bowland Betty, and end their days shot.

Considering the fantastic BTO Cuckoo-tracking study allows us to see that ‘our’ Cuckoos are in Mali, or Italy, or wherever they are in real time, it remains unacceptable that the NE Hen Harrier tagging project remains so secretive about the movements of Hen Harriers 12 years after it started -12 years!  The shutters came down completely on this study once the Conservative-Liberal coalition came into ‘power’ – it’s probably a coincidence, and probably nothing to do with NE not wanting to irritate their grouse moor-owning Minister of the time, Richard Benyon (ex GWCT trustee).

In the days of Labour (remember them?), NE published a hard-hitting report on Hen Harriers which alluded to the early results of the Hen Harrier tracking study but that was in 2008. Since then this publicly-funded study has been remarkably unforthcoming about the movements and fate of the tagged birds. Are they still disappearing at autumn roosts as they were in 2008? We should be told.



23 Replies to “Let joy be unconfined!”

  1. Mark

    Yours is a rather churlish response to some good news. That is especially sad because you personally and the people you worked with on ‘Hen Harrier Day’ has had a positive role in making more people aware of hen harriers and so has, in some ways, contributed to this success. Yes, it’s only one nest and much more needs to be done. The NT and those involved in the Peak Birds project acknowledge this. But it is a successful nest on a grouse moor and is the result of leadership by the NT and lots of cooperation on the ground.

    My expectations of a chorus of support for this view from followers of your Blog are low. My expectations of a steady rise in the Peak District hen harrier population and greater acceptance of that by those who manage the Peak District moors is slightly greater.


    1. Jim – many thanks!

      Churlish: rude in a mean-spirited and surly way. rude, ill-mannered, discourteous, impolite, ungracious, unmannerly, uncivil, ungentlemanly, ungallant, unchivalrous, ill-bred, boorish, oafish, loutish, mean-spirited, ill-tempered, unkind, inconsiderate, uncharitable, ill-humoured, surly, sullen

  2. Completely support your championship of Hen harriers, and was proud to be one of the sodden 570.
    But isn’t it slightly joyful news? How many people are aware of what this new fledging means cf. how many would have been aware five years ago? What prompted Mr Eyre to report the nest?
    I assume joy, but whatever it was, he felt the need to report it.

    1. Perhaps he knew that it was known about & that he as well as the nest was under surveillance?

      PR spin, law abiding gamekeeper, whatever …. but let’s hope they survive the winter.

      Ever an agnostic …. & then we can celebrate again, in the interim keep up the campaigning pressure?

        1. Maybe those nice people working on the joint action plan with Hans Christian Andersen will solve the problem and save us all trying to recruit critical mass?

          Ever an agnostic ….

          & in the interim, 17,024 is good to date whilst the debate continues.

  3. 4 is better than 3 but not as good as 40 or 300+ Lets hope the fledglings survive to breed next year and don’t ‘disappear’ over the winter.

    It’s a start and “We Will Win” although just heard this morning 2nd hand news of ‘regular’ buzzard shooting somewhere in east Lancs, something to do with pheasants and grouse – not good!

  4. On one hand this is good news however if like Mark has said if you Google this man’s name and download the pdf document relating to the judgement you may or may not start thinking is it coincidental THIS man seems so happy, or just very clever PR/Spin. Maybe a brush with the law has brought a change of heart but let’s wait and see what happens in the future.

  5. But PR can be spun both ways.
    Mark could be saying, Look at this for a victory! Derbyshire of the upland grouse moors and Hen harriers breeding where in the past ignorance and greed had swept them from the skies! Protected by the people of Derbyshire. The same people who rejoice in the peregrines on their city’s Cathedral. Who turn out in their hundreds to be drenched for their beliefs.
    And who alerted these people to the nest? Some heavily binoculared birder up from the soft South? Far from it! (here you uncynically insert Mr Eyre’s link because I believe he was pleased. What intelligent educated person would not be?)

    And then perhaps Mark, you could go on to describe us as Derbyshire, Conservation Capital of the North.

    And we could all start living up to it.

  6. Well “English breeding Hen Harrier population increases by a third in one year” does sound like quite an exciting news headline.

    I wonder what the increase would have been if a few other moorland estates hadn’t benefited from the presence of gamekeepers during the year….

  7. Mark,think you are probably the reason for at least Hen Harriers having a better year even if there is a long way to go at least a start is being made in improved numbers of Chicks fledged.
    Just maybe if some like Geoff Eyre have had a change in attitude we have at some point give them credit,maybe it is also partly due to N T.We need to consider that he could just as easily destroyed the nest as reported it.
    Even if he just wanted to look good or whatever the reason it is a start hopefully of better times in the lovely Peak.

  8. Stephen Murphy: A future for the Hen Harrier in England?

    A talk by Natural England tomorrow at “In the Bog” conference, Sheffield.

    Looking forward to hearing what they are planning to do ….

    1. Just located the abstract to NE presentation ….

      Stephen Murphy, ornithologist, lead advisor, Natural England and John Moores University, Liverpool [email protected]

      A future for the Hen Harrier in England?

      Since 2002 Natural England’s Hen Harrier Recovery Project has monitored the numbers of breeding Hen Harriers in England. The English Hen Harrier population is now critically small. In 2013, there were only two breeding attempts in England, both of which were unsuccessful. In 2014, three pairs have attempted to breed. Between 2002 and 2008, productivity from successful nests was high, but very few nesting attempts were successful on grouse moors. There is compelling evidence that persecution is one of the main factors responsible for recent worrying declines. Once a population is reduced to just a handful of birds other limiting factors such as disease, and stochastic events, including adverse weather conditions, can become significant.

      For the first time, new tracking technologies have been used to monitor the dispersal of Hen Harriers during the non-breeding season. The development of lightweight satellite transmitters has enabled hen harrier dispersal to be modelled free of the observer bias associated with previous marking techniques. This has highlighted important areas for the species in the UK and Europe, revealed a complex range of dispersal strategies from sedentary to full migrant, and confirmed that high overwinter mortality limits recruitment to the breeding population.

      So, 12 years of monitoring …. & ???

      Maybe a recommendation that keepers be tagged as well given there are so few HHs lefty to tag? Let’s see what they say tomorrow ….

      1. It is a disgrace that publicly funded tracking work, supposedly delivered by a Non Departmental Public Body, is being supressed. Clearly because the current administration doesn’t want to see elements of its core support embarrassed.

        As John Miles hinted elsewhere, it does seem like raptor persecution in the Uplands has hit new highs in recent years. And Defra’s position is supine. Their place should be to administer policy, and the stated policy is that this bird is a protected species. The huntin’ shootin’ and fishin’ wing of the Tory part’s view of policy is clearly different to their stated Government policy and yet it seems to be the former that forms the basis of Defra’s response. Pathetic.

  9. Of course four is better than three and may be just may be Mr Eyre has seen the light he deserves the benefit of the doubt. The proof however will be how many of this year’s adults return next year to breed accompanied by this year’s young to all three of this year’s breeding areas, may be also hopefully to the many thousands of suitable acres in Yorkshire Durham and Northumberland as well, a successful breeding nucleus in each would indeed be a wondrous new beginning.
    We need to keep the pressure on, so far its just four small but significant steps to recovery .

  10. Our household did glow with something rather akin to unconfined joy when the news broke last night. Hen harriers (and by the way short eared owls) breeding, flying, living well in the Peak District and returning safely to it, are what we want. Don’t really care how we get there.

    So buoyed up by all this joy, I will now be writing to my local MP, to explain that we need the data on what happened to the tagged hen harriers publicly available. I have to confess that I hadn’t realised that data was not not in the public domain so joy is rather more confined this morning.

  11. But forgive me for being thick, but if those hen harriers are satellite tagged and any member of the public can look online and tell which area they in are like the BTO cuckoos, would they be safe?

  12. I signed the petition and believe it to be the optimum solution to loss of birds of prey and other wildlife from driven grouse moors. I’m also regularly incensed at the attitude of the police and judicial system to wildlife crime.
    The improved attitude by the RSPB to bird of prey protection this year is not only noticeable but very welcome, and I hope the resolve stiffens further.
    I would also wish to thank, without reservation, Geoff Eyre for his reporting of the nest.
    You also have my full support, despite my agreement some of the many definitions describing the article.

    1. They still have to survive the winter …. but let’s think positively and carry on the campaigning in the interim?

      Guess what, whilst an interesting talk by a NE member of staff (clearly passionate about the Hen Harrier, his PhD subject) there was a very polite refusal to discuss the ongoing persecution of it (was that hierarchy) so …. ‘moor anon’.

      Susan, sadly I’d be inclined to agree with Hilary. Data on any free flying birds currently being tracked needs to be safeguarded. Data on locations of any dead birds found might be open for debate but if they’d been shot or otherwise destroyed the odds are that the satelite would have been similarly dealt with?

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